Largest Battery Energy Storage Project in North America

The US$50 million energy storage project will demonstrate the performance of the lithium-ion batteries in actual system conditions.
Published: Mon 29 Sep 2014

Southern California Edison (SCE) has announced the opening of the largest battery energy storage project in North America. The Tehachapi Energy Storage Project has been created to modernize the grid in order to integrate more clean energy.

The 32MWh battery energy storage system features lithium-ion batteries housed inside a 6,300 square-foot facility at SCE’s Monolith substation in Tehachapi, California which is one of the windiest places in the state. The Tehachapi Wind Resource Area is projected to generate up to 4,500MW of wind energy by 2016.

The value of battery energy storage

The demonstration project is funded by SCE and federal stimulus money awarded by the Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“This installation will allow us to take a serious look at the technological capabilities of energy storage on the electric grid,” said Dr. Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager in the energy department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. “It will also help us to gain a better understanding of the value and benefit of battery energy storage.”

Its size and four-hour duration makes it a significant demonstration project for the utility sector. And LG Chem, based in Korea, is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium-ion batteries. ABB is making the inverters. The US$50 million project was paid for by SCE and federal stimulus funding.

Over a two-year period, the project will demonstrate the performance of the lithium-ion batteries in actual system conditions and the capability to automate the operations of the battery energy storage system and integrate its use into the utility grid.

“The Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is a significant milestone for SCE and for energy storage in California,” said Doug Kim, director of Advanced Technology at SCE.

Energy storage is becoming feasible

“Thanks to advances in battery technology, storage is beginning to look like a real feasible solution,” said Doug Kim, director of advanced technologies at SCE, in an interview. “It’s 8 megawatts of power for four continuous hours, so 32 megawatt hours. It’s connected to a substation that brings power from the wind farms.”

Everyone is jumping into the storage space, from large corporations like Genreal Electric [Engerati – Energy Storage- General Electric Gets Serious.] to solar companies, Tesla Motors [Engerati – Will Tesla’s Gigafactory Crack the Energy Storage Market?] and a number of Silicon Valley startups. [Engerati – Energy Storage – Think Big, Think Cheap.]

“There are a lot of creative people out there experimenting with different battery chemistries,” said Kim. “But lithium ion is the best solution in the near term. It’s getting economies of scale, and that is how you drive the cost down. Lithium ion is the most commercially ready and available battery technology today.”